FANN’S TAKE: Sympathy for the Devil – MJF’s Stellar Promo and the Antagonist with a point

By Rich Fann, PWTorch columnist

AEW Revolution sees MJF retain the world championship


Last night’s AEW Dynamite episode featured not only great wrestling, but outstanding promos from Eddie Kingston, Chris Jericho, and MJF. However, MJF’s promo is where I want to focus, as many have, because that promo was the best of an antagonist that sees himself as the protagonist of the story.

My comic head had me instantly think of Thanos, and his quest to achieve his goals in “Avengers: Infinity War.” But I want to go old school and talk a bit about how MJF screams Iago to me more so than Thanos.

The above tweet references a real MJF Facebook post around the time of the incidents he mentioned during his promo. Additionally, this isn’t the first time that we’ve heard MJF get this deep – especially if you paid attention to his MLW run:

The pieces fit – and because they do, this screams Iago from “Othello.”

“Demand me nothing. What you know, you know. From this time forth I never will speak word.”
– Iago (Othello)

When overlooked after years of service on the battlefield and in life to Othello, Iago creates a scheme to take down not only his former friend Othello, but also the man that took “his” promotion. Iago arranges for Othello to kill his wife Desdemona among others who fall in his path to vengeance until Iago is found out.

Flip this back to MJF and you see a man that built his young life on the hope of a hero in C.M. Punk. When that was dashed, and he then saw the handshake photo years later, the abuse and torment suffered prior to these moments forged to him a hero who would do what his villain would never – dedicate themselves fully to the cause of pro wrestling.

And when you dig deeper, you see why Punk had to come out to react to this promo. Think on last week, when Punk opened with his old “I’m better than you” straight-edge manifesto. That hurt – of family members and friends gone bad due to drugs and alcohol – similarly fueled Punk. Instead of being a force for good, it was a force to allow Punk to feel superior to his opponents.

Once he became a babyface and that was a less obnoxious aspect of his personality, the “Best in the World” became the replacement for being better than you. In the case of MJF, he is seeing himself, subconsciously or not, as not only giving a middle finger to his one-time hero, but also himself falling into the very same trap that Punk did when he rose to prominence, allowing the thirst to prove the failings of the past would not be his own.

Back to Othello.

When confronted with Iago’s treachery and having it laid bare, and hearing Iago’s non-answer answer, Gratiano, the murdered Desdemona’s uncle, says to Iago, “Torment will ope your lips.” As with typical villains, the assumption would be that the coward would let pain end their stand, to stop their bravado.

However, like Iago, MJF also laid down the gauntlet that the impending dog collar match wouldn’t scare him either in terms of violence or the price paid to exact violence on one another, because the pain of a dog collar match would be nothing compared to that prior pain, and to submit to Punk in such a match would render his journey (as the hero of his own story) moot. And Punk’s reaction, his “is this true,” is that of a man who now doubts his place in the story. Prior to this, Max was just another jerk that needed to be put in his place. But now, with this as the backdrop, gaps are filled into just how badly MJF wants to win at all times – and especially against Punk.

However, this doesn’t excuse the treatment of Wardlow prior to this, or MJF’s relationship with Jericho and how that soured, or his creation and maintenance of a broken crew like Pinnacle. And in that is the beauty of the scenario; you see the cracks in the mirror and MJF’s “why,” but you also see how despite that affront, despite that role C.M. Punk held in his life, it wasn’t C.M. Punk who created those bullies, it wasn’t C.M. Punk who isolated MJF. And so giving him that much power to affect the trajectory of his life will be quite the journey for Punk to now unpack and respond to.

This makes what has been a great story one of the best in the short existence of AEW, because you see and feel his pain, but also understand that just because hurt people can hurt people, it doesn’t justify what MJF has done in his career. Inform? Absolutely. And that information now creates the seed that can turn into a monster of a babyface down the road for them.

In the interim, let Iago cook.

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